As mentioned in earlier posts, the new electric trains which will replace our current diesel ones will receive a dedicated bike carrying area/bike racks. In recent months, Auckland Transport invited Cycle Action Auckland to two workshops to, among other things, discuss the best way to carry bikes on board of the new trains.
The discussion was open and constructive, but not easy – as improvements for bikes will often clash with other demands the train designers also have to achieve – such as the relatively tight confines of a narrow-gauge train and the strict requirements for consistent handrails (both which prevent some bike-carrying configurations).
Or take the simple query “Why are we not proposing more dedicated bike racks per train” (currently, only 4-6 bikes are to receive dedicated racks per each 740 people-train, less than 1 bike / 100 passengers – though there will be the ability to take surplus bikes into multi-purpose areas, at least off-peak). Essentially it comes down to the fact that the trains people want to maximise people carrying capacity, and every bike reduces that maximum number – they prefer to lean more (though not exclusively) to providing better bike parking at stations (and maybe a public bike hire scheme? How about we revitalise that great idea!).
At least, if we ever decide to increase the number of dedicated bike racks in the trains, the modular shape of the interior will make this relatively easy compared to earlier trains where something like this could have meant a relatively major retrofit.
Another difficult discussion was the type of rack / holding mechanism – because there simply is no magic bullet (we looked at a lot of options worldwide – it was clear from the very many methods tried that no one has found the perfect solution yet…). Vertical hooks for example are disliked by many people – we had a bit of canvassing of friends and members – as they are much harder to lift bikes into. They also cause, (comparatively speaking) a lot more injuries and bike damage – just think of what could happen if you are just lifting your bike up or down, and the the train jerks while starting or stopping…
This only gets worse because with the narrow trains, bikes would have to be hung
parallel to the walls to still comply with requirements for minimum clear central aisle widths (for passenger circulation). So – no hooks. A high-level decision was made, with CAA agreement, to use horizontal storage, along the train axis (or potentially slightly diagonally, for ease of access).
The layout shown above is still being refined, especially the ways of holding the bike wheels in place without damaging them, and to assess the best way to get bikes in and out (especially if people are not leaving at the same station). The bike carrier will be part of a big life-sized mock-up model that Auckland Transport will demonstrate in Auckland to the public around the middle of the year, so everyone will be able to have a look!